TAMPA, Fla. — Robert DuBoise is still working through the learning curves.
“I thought for a while Siri was working for the toll people,” he said, laughing. “She wouldn’t let me miss one!”
He’s still getting used to self-checkouts, cell phones and getting back behind the wheel.
“I wasn’t foolish enough to think that I could just come out and jump into a car and go,” he said.
On a warm summer day six months ago, Robert came out of the Hardee Correctional facility a free man — 37 years after he walked in.
“That was the one thing I was hopeful for all of these years is just proving my innocence. That’s what was really important that everybody knew I didn’t do it," he said.
Starting life back up hasn’t been easy, there are things he has yet to experience like job security, building savings and a good credit score.
Florida compensates exonerates $50,000 for each year they are wrongfully incarcerated. In Robert Duboise’s situation, that’s 37 years in total $1.8 million.
“So the headline is, Tampa man exonerated for murder after 37 years likely won’t receive compensation due to Florida law,” said Ali Marpe
An article ABC Action News reporter Heather Leigh wrote in September that details why Robert didn’t qualify for his compensation, fell into the hands of Bucs Guard Ali Marpet.
“I’m not 100% sure, I don’t know if it was a notification or just kind of scrolling but obviously the headline was very eye-popping and you feel that,” said Marpet.
From there, Marpet shared the article with fellow teammates like Donovan Smith and they decided Robert would be a focus for the team's social justice initiative.
“You can’t just replace 37 years, you know you know at all let alone being on death row,” Smith said.
“Between them and project innocence, my truck is sitting outside,” DuBoise said.
“Paid off?” Heather asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“He such a positive guy and he’s been through so much,” Marpet said. “To have that sort of disposition is unbelievable and it gives us so much perspective.”
State Rep Andrew Learned has filed a bill that would grant Robert the money he is owed if passed. It would also require the state to formally apologize for its mistake.
“In this case, this is a very clear-cut easy example of the state that has wrong somebody,” said Rep. Learned.
The Innocence Project is also fighting to get a bill passed that would rid the law of the “clean hands bar” which keeps someone from getting compensation because of a previous conviction.
“Hopefully in the future the law changes,” Marpet said. “That if you had an offense you’re still entitled to compensation that just doesn’t make sense to me.”
For now, Robert is getting the gift of kindness and it’s something he admits he is not used to.
“They invited me to the Super Bowl!” said Duboise.
“THEY DID?” Heather asked.
“YEA!” he said.
Proof the growth of several new friendships are just getting started.
"Ever since then, it’s just been a growing relationship between us and you know Robert's a great man,” said Smith.